This silver box is a statue of a graceful crane standing on thin legs in a rocky waterway gazing downward at two tortoises. The feathers on the crane’s body have blue highlights and are shown in great detail. Its neck is smooth and curves gracefully to a reddish medallion between the crane’s eyes and above its long, pointed beak. One tortoise looks upward at the stork. There are touches of blue water visible among the rocks. The colors on the box appear iridescent. At the back of the rock is an inscription in Japanese. A translation for this inscription is not provided.
Crane and Tortoise Box,
Silver with gold and lacquer
10.5 cm (4 1/8 in.) high
This crane and tortoise box was designed and produced to be given to guests at the imperial banquet for the twenty-fifth wedding anniversary of the Meiji Emperor and Empress in 1894. Often referred to by the French term “bonbonnière,” the box is decorated with a crane and two tortoises (minogame), historic motifs that convey messages of auspiciousness and longevity across East Asia. Aside from one other in a private Hong Kong collection, all examples of this bonbonnière are in the collection of the Japanese Imperial Household. Kojiro Tomita (1890-1976), Isabella’s friend and a curator at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, gave this box to Isabella sometime around the year 1909. Isabella displayed it in the Little Salon along with other objects commemorating her friendships.